Saint John vacancy rate hits 10-year high
Worst on list of 35 major centres
Landlords are feeling the effects of New Brunswick's slow economy, especially in Saint John where the vacancy rate has climbed to a 10-year high.
The city's vacancy rate of 9.7 per cent is the worst on a list of 35 major centres, surveyed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The national average is 2.6 per cent.
Moncton is also reporting a high vacancy rate at 6.7 per cent, but for slightly different reasons.
"This year's a little slower than last and last year was slower than the previous year," said landlord Donald Hazen, whose family owns 400 rental units in Saint John.
Saint John's population isn't growing, but Moncton's is, said Claude Gautreau, CMHC spokesman.
Moncton has also seen new construction.
"It's essentially a supply and demand issue. When you look at Moncton, for example, in this case, the vacancy rate went up in 2012, mostly because supply went up a little bit faster than demand," said Gautreau.
"And when you look at Saint John, it's the opposite, where the vacancy rate is up — not so much because you have an increase in supply — but in this case, it's the other extreme where you actually see demand coming down in 2012."
Ads on the classified website Kijiji show Saint John landlords advertising incentives like a month's free rent.
But some people still can't find what they need.
Anastasia Whittaker is looking for a three-bedroom apartment for herself and two kids at less than $800 a month in the city's upper west side.
"And a lot of them are $900 and $1,000 a month, and there's nothing included and it's impossible to afford that," said Whittaker.
CMHC says rents in Saint John have not slacked off with each year bringing a moderate increase. Currently, the average two-bedroom apartment goes for $691. It's $40 higher in Moncton.
Hazen said he's had to freeze some rents. But other years have been worse.
"Oh yes, just before the refinery expansion, we had up to 15 per cent vacancy," said Hazen.
CMHC predicts Saint John's vacancy rate could start to come down in 2014 because of a slowdown in new inventory.